It’s no secret that life in 2018 involves any number of different sources trying to gain your attention. From real-life billboards to audio ads to increasingly clever integrated internet marketing campaigns, your attention is very valuable. And while, unfortunately, many advertising agencies seem to think that the solution is to make ads increasingly louder and more obnoxious, akin to those found in ‘Blade Runner,’ there are also craftspeople in the industry as well who are instead focusing on speaking to people directly, and saying something genuine in the process.

With that said, Current Artisan offers the following interview with Chris Marshall, an ad man who has worked with some very big names indeed, from Kraft to Chrysler-Dodge to Spotify. After starting out with a large agency, he split off to start his own, Content Citizen, based in Toronto. And we don’t say this often but he has very literally won too many awards to list them here.

Our conversation focused on the creative process behind his work and the need for advertising to be smart rather than loud. Enjoy.

As people’s attention spans decrease through use of digital media, how do you adjust advertising campaigns to reach people more effectively?

Marshall: Depending upon the audience, I ascertain which media channels will work best with that demographic reach. Using our client’s key brand messaging, we develop stories utilizing the insights around audience behaviour, and create a narrative that aligns with both the brand and the audience. Whether it is video, photography, audio narrative, or a VR experience, we utilize innovative narrative at varying lengths, aiming to make these experiences personal and relevant to the individual, in a timely and topical manner to resonate with our audience demand space.

Tell us about when you first had the idea for Content Citizen. Was there a specific moment of inspiration?

Marshall: I wanted to create a consultancy that merged strategic creative and execution, providing a turnkey solution, developing and executing content quickly and with high production value, all on a nominal budget. At the time, I was working as a Senior Creative Director within an internal creative agency. I saw a lot of overlap and redundancy. I thought that Content Citizen was a perfect approach: a cost-effective creative production solution utilizing a small footprint.

Do you enjoy building a team and collaborating with lots of other creatives?

Marshall: Yes, that’s the best part of my job. Collaboration provides an opportunity for finding inspiration and resources to build out a project idea or campaign.

What’s the most exciting stage of working on a campaign?

Marshall: Ideation is my favourite stage. Building out the ‘what if…’ and the ‘yes and…’ parts of a particular idea always feels like a euphoric state, one where there are no blinders or reservations. It’s the canvas where the creative is applied and where the picture can take on many shapes. I love that part of the process.

Can you tell us about any specific instances when the creation of an ad became especially difficult?

Marshall: I wouldn’t want to cite any specific times, but I can tell you that a difficult process to overcome is when the client gatekeepers change amidst campaign execution. Trying to navigate changes after the creative has been shot tends to change the outcome of the spot. You have to be amenable, but you also have to defend your creative rationale in order to achieve the best creative output and messaging for your client.

Do you have any interest in directing or creating creative projects outside of advertising?

Marshall: Yes, I am starting to look at developing longer pieces of content as well. I am developing two short films, both scheduled to go into production in spring and summer of 2019.

Given your experience with creative development, do you view ads differently now in your daily life?

Marshall: I always look at how and why creative is developed. I tend to break it down shot by shot to see how the narrative was told; specifically – which shots, angles, sound, animation, acting, and VFX [visual effects] had helped to add impact to the emotional connection with the narrative. I take note of what was done, what I may have done differently … and if the content provoked its intended reaction. This keeps me actively engaged, inspired – and at and times humbled, by the amazing work done by creative and production types all over the world. This is an exciting time! With new and growing media opportunities presenting themselves, creative can develop endless possibilities through a global lens.